Accounts: Their Construction and Interpretation for Business Men and Students of Affairs

By William Morse Cole | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ELEVEN
THE PLACE OF STATISTICS IN ACCOUNTING

IT must not be thought that accounting is always a matter of dollars and cents or of debit and credit figures. Many essential figures of accounting are not susceptible of translation into those terms; they are nothing but statistics preserved for business purposes.

Here, as in so many other cases, we can best illustrate the principles by recurring to railroad figures, for every one is familiar with the simpler facts of railroad operation, and railroad reports are almost the only full reports accessible for the average man's study. Some railroads furnish more than one hundred items of statistical information, and most of these are combinations of figures not published, which show much more detail for the use of the officers of the road. Some indication of these is likely to be well worth while.

Though no two statistical reports of railroads are alike, many items are common to all (perhaps given under different names) and many may be combined so as to produce results that may be compared for different roads. These statistics may be divided into four sections--passenger traffic, freight traffic, loading statistics, and cost statistics,--though they are not usually arranged in this way by the roads publishing them.

One of the first questions which any one asks himself about a railroad report in which he is interested is, Have the earnings been earned, or are they represented as greater or less than the facts warrant? Obviously, one of the first minor questions to consider in answering this main question is whether charges have been made to capital that should have been made to maintenance. Suppose the report shows that a certain number of cars have been purchased during the year and charged to equipment. At once the question arises whether the cars reported last year as on hand have been thoroughly utilized, and, therefore, whether the new cars were necessary. It is possible to learn from statistics of various roads

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